What Is Biblical Social Justice?


Jesus’ approach to justice is so different than ours. On one occasion, a militant political group tried to forcibly make Jesus their leader (John 6:15). He refused. On another occasion, he flipped over tables as he drove money lenders and animals out of the Temple - a clear prophetic protest against the greed and manipulation of people trying to use God for personal gain (Matthew 21:12-17). And still another time, a woman was caught in adultery by an angry mob where he refused to stone her (John 8:1-11).

Why weren’t Jesus’ responses more consistent? Why did he respond in such unexpected ways? 

Jesus didn’t subscribe to any single social agenda or political party. His only goal was to love God and care about the things and people God cared about. He defied the simplicity of human agendas. 


How did Jesus know how to respond to each person and situation in front of him? He knew because he was fully present. Jesus approached justice through relational presence. He relocated from the glory of Heaven to come and live among us - the poor. He became one of us. He saw the needs of people and humanity up close. His heart was moved by the poor, the marginalized, and the weak. Instead of putting these people out of his mind, he physically got closer to them. He interacted with them. He sacrificed for them. He was present. 


In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that the way we relate to “the least of these brothers of mine” (impoverished, hurting Christians) is the way we relate to him. He even gives us a punch list of examples. Do we feed Christians who are starving? Do we visit believers who are in jail? Do we care for refugees and strangers as they come to us in need?

There are plenty of examples in scripture of God’s people serving the hurting in all sorts of ways - church benevolence, government service, specialized ministries - but one of the greatest examples comes from the story of the Good Samaritan. A man asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?"

The key to Biblical social justice is our relational presence. Consistent, ongoing personal relationships with people who are suffering is the number one way that God will grow our heart to be like his. As his people, we must PHYSICALLY and EMOTIONALLY move toward people who are in need in order to have the wisdom to know how to respond to the injustices of our world. We must dwell among the hurting. It’s not enough to click “like” or to share an article on social media.

If you want to help transform lives, you’ve got to have personal relationships with hurting people.

In your own time of need, you are comforted and transformed by the presence of other people. This too is true: people are changed by your relational presence. You must continue to move toward and build relationships with hurting people.


Set a timer for 30 seconds. During that time, write down as many sermons as you can think of that deeply impacted your life.

Set the timer for another 30 seconds and write down 5 people that impacted your life. 

Q: How many did you get of each? Why do you think it’s easier to think of people more than sermons?

Q: What does this activity show you about the importance of relationships and being present in people's lives?


How has God’s relational presence in your life changed you? Praise God for these things. Ask God to help you discern which hurting people or people suffering from injustice he wants you to move toward in the coming months. Ask God to send you opportunities to get involved with these people.